So, then, what does God’s righteousness (His faithful love) mean for us on a practical level?
READ AND DISCUSS ROMANS 3:20-31 for Paul’s explanation of God’s righteousness as the basis of our salvation. Carefully think through what Paul is saying in this passage, because it is the best news you will ever hear. All of us are guilty sinners and if left to ourselves our sin and guilt will destroy us. And yet, because of “God’s righteousness”—the faithfulness of His character that moves Him to keep on loving us in spite of our guilt—He has chosen to give us a justified standing of innocence before Him at the cost of great suffering on His part. We are made righteous by means of God’s righteousness!
This, Paul says, is the good news! And this, says the first angel’s message, is what God’s end-time church is to proclaim to every person on earth.
Our Response to the Good News
2. FEAR GOD =_____________________________________________________________________________.
Why, then, in this tremendously positive context would the first angel’s message go on to say, “Fear God?”
The word fear is used two ways in the Bible. In one usage it is a negative fear, like terror, that evil people who persist in evil ought to feel at the thought of a righteous God to whom they are ultimately accountable (Psalm 9:20; 14:4-6; 36:1-3; Isaiah 33:14). The second way the word fear is used is in the sense of being awestruck at God’s mercy and goodness (Psalm 22:23; 25:14; 31:19; 33:8, 18; 40:3-4; 89:7; 115:11; Psalm 130:4). The “fear-God” proclamation of the first angel may mean “be afraid” or “be awestruck.” Both are possible emotional responses to God. It all depends on whether the individual person having the encounter senses guilt or innocence before God. According to 1 John 4:16-19, when we know and believe the love God has for us—the gospel—the terror kind of fear is cast out of our hearts and we experience confidence before God. So, for those who believe the gospel, the first angel’s message says, In the light of the good news of God’s faithful love for you, be amazed with awe at who God is and what He’s done for you.
3. GIVE GLORY TO HIM =________________________________________________________________________.
The word “glory” (doxa) literally means to declare a high opinion, judgment, or view of a person. In this case, we are called upon to give glory to God in the light of the gospel. The glory of God is His good character (Exodus 33:18-19). To give glory to God is to proclaim, in word and deed, the beautiful reality of His goodness, confessing that our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” are all from the Lord and not of our own manufacturing (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Matthew 5:16).
4. THE HOUR OF HIS JUDGMENT =_________________________________________________________________.
The first angel goes on to announce, “for the hour of His judgment has come.” God has appointed a time for the final judgment of humanity, which Jesus and Paul knew to be future to their time (Matthew 12:36; Acts 17:31). In Acts 24:24-25 Paul reasoned with Felix of the “judgment to come.” The first angel’s message is proclaimed to those who are living during that juncture of history when “the hour of His judgment has come.”
Some people make bad news out of the judgment, but actually it’s good news. The prophet Daniel tells us why. First, when God’s final judgment happens, “the beast”—Daniel’s term for the antichrist system that wages war against God and His people—will be “slain” (Daniel 7:9-11). Second, “judgment” will be “made in favor of the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:21-22). In the light of God’s faithful love for us, we can have “boldness in the Day of Judgment” (1 John 4:16-17). That’s why the judgment is good new —because the Judge is just and good in all His judgments (Psalm 9:8; Isaiah 33:22)
5. WORSHIP HIM WHO MADE =___________________________________________________________________.
This part of the first angel’s message quotes from the fourth commandment, the one regarding the Sabbath. Read Exodus 20:8-11 and discover why this message, which is for those living at the end-time segment of history, would direct our attention to the Sabbath. First, the Sabbath is the one commandment among the Ten that identifies the God of the biblical story as the Creator of all things, or Jesus Christ Himself (Exodus 20:8-11; Colossians 1:16-17; Mark 2:27-28). Secondly, the Sabbath teaches us to rest in dependence upon our Creator for salvation rather than work to earn it, which is the central truth of the gospel (Ephesians 2:8-10). And thirdly, the Sabbath logically fits in the historical context of the end-time message because, as we have discovered in study guide 17, a counterfeit system of Christianity has aligned itself against both the law and the gospel. By pointing to the Sabbath, the first angel’s message is calling the attention of the world to God’s downtrodden Law of love and to the rest we have in Christ alone for our salvation.